Modern movement conservation: international principles and national policies in Great Britain and the United States of America
Engel Purcell, Caroline Marie
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This thesis analyses the roles played by international, national, regional and local organisations and discourses in the heritage valorisation and conservation of modernist architecture – a process that has so far spanned some three decades. A leading role in this narrative has been played by international conservation organisations, which have acted as a unifying front for conservation advocacy and defined a conservation ideology that integrates the principles of both the modern movement and the conservation movement. Partly, this international emphasis has stemmed from the characteristics of the 20th century Modern Movement itself, including its strong strain of cosmopolitanism, as well as its still controversial reputation today at a local level. This initially gave the proselytising of modernist conservation a somewhat elite, trans-national character, exemplified by pioneering organisations such as DOCOMOMO. Yet the ‘internationalism’ of modernist conservation is only part of the story – for to establish this innovative new strand of heritage on a more entrenched basis, the familiar, more locally specific organisations and discourses that had supported previous phases of conservation growth were also increasingly applied to ‘MoMo’ heritage. This ‘on the ground’ involvement represented a convergence with more ‘traditional’ conservation practices, both in advocacy and campaigning, and in the research-led documentation required to document buildings’ significance and continued fitness for purpose. These geographically-specific forces operate at both a national level and also a regional or even local scale, as the thesis illustrates by the two national case studies of Great Britain and the United States of America. Although both countries shared numerous cultural similarities, especially the 19th century veneration of private property, the far more emphatic 20th century turn towards state interventionism in Britain led to a strong divergence regarding modernist heritage, both in the overall character of the modernist architecture built in the two countries (far more ‘capitalistic’ in the US) and in the approach to heritage conservation (more state-dominated in GB). In Great Britain, following on from the comprehensive post-WWII government ‘listing’ programme, the statutory heritage bodies – ‘regionally’ differentiated between England and Scotland - have maintained their leading role in the conservation of modern movement heritage through initiatives to identify buildings of significance, and powerful city planning authorities have provided co-ordinated enforcement. In the US, on the other hand, heritage protection has stayed faithful to its philanthropic roots and the onus of modern movement conservation is left to voluntary advocacy groups who then must campaign to have buildings protected piecemeal by local city or state preservation bodies.